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Friday 26.02.2021 pockets, rails and memories

My habitual Friday afternoon walk, has become 4 pm and here I am into the Glen, its grey and not warm but the shots are very much in evidence – everywhere new growth, the green blades rising from the water, the yellows of celandine and daffodil flowers. I head West along the North bank for whatever sun I can get and up to the Gothic orchard. The hollowed out tree at the heart of this natural amphitheatre, presiding hooded, at once nestled-in, looming and protective, a little joey peering out from its pocket. I do the roundsinspecting the nooks and crannies for further interactions, the branches are bearing up well and doing their job at creating a protected space at he base of this living tree where used tissues, needles, gum and cans and other debris have at other times accumulated. Its a dynamic space. The trees here are full of pockets inviting offerings and hidings. In the pocket I once used for leaving galls and acorns there is now a triangular stone and a stick, I decide to make a gentle addition here to show some kind of acknowledgment and place a couple of ivy leaves as cushioning beneath the stone. The little flurry of fungi has a cloud-like presence, ruffles in the weather, speaking to me about coverage and release.

I move on knowing I have to get back for my weekly kundalini appointment at 5.30 and I spot a familiar blue edged form from the high ridge, it is N coming towards me and I try to gauge the time between us. When we do meet I knew it would be at the Y shaped junction where heading east, you have the choice of paths, high or low. N agrees to accompany me on the lower option, as I have just descended from the gorse bushes on the high path and so we head, me back eastwards, and N onward from Blackpool. We talk of matters arising as always in this magical place. We see the Hatch and the ‘Pencil Factory‘ from on high and try to place new found old photos over what’s before and below us. The black and white images of 3 girls playing by a stone arch and the other of the pool contained by its wall where I am sometimes drawn to lie with my belly to the concrete, over the gushing river while the two alders growing there now preside. We spend some time imagining the O’Brien foot print and the house which stood there once upon a time, N was the first person to be drawn in by the fence posts.

One of the walkers, young I, who is in love with the birds of the park and has a talent for getting up close, has spotted a pair of water rails in the Glen. And there’s a revelation – many years ago, during one of the snows there was a pile of willow from a tree we had cut back and heaped in the garden. The thick blanket of snow had formed a large hollow dome. We were having a late breakfast and looking out, as always into the garden, where usually we see tits and robins, dunnocks, wrens, blackbirds, thrushes, starlings, finches, collared doves, pigeons and crows of all kinds foraging and jostling for territory. We were astonished when a strange and exotic bird strode out of the pile, long-legged and urgent, and disappearing through the fence and into the school before I had a chance to reach for my camera (so it seems it was before I had a smart phone) and so I got to my bird book instead, finding the only thing that remotely resembled it was a corncrake! – unlikely, but I couldn’t shake off an image that has grown in my mind’s eye, the soft grey of our creature’s underside – throat, breast and belly and the rosy orange of its beak and legs becoming fused in my memory. So now when I look at the pictures I find of water rail I am warmed and gladdened to re-see this mythical bird from an incident in our garden’s past. I still wonder how long it had sojourned there in the pile of willows, a space much like an igloo, with its deep covering of snow, that must have lasted only a few days…or was it more…. it may have been the time of the water crisis, those days of community when we had to collect water from tanks supplied across the city and the hotels opened their bathrooms for people to wash.

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